If you are new to the world of braiding, it can seem like a mystery knowing which finger goes where, how to pick up the hair and basically how to make your DIY french braid look like the pictures you see on Instagram or Pinterest.
Even if you are a pro at braiding other peoples hair, it can be really difficult to work out how to do a french braid on yourself.
But fear not, in this guide, we will teach you all about the French braid and how to do a French braid.
You will learn different techniques on how to braid on yourself and others, and secret hints & tips to make sure that your french braid comes out perfect every time.
As you already know how to braid hair all you have to do is level up your skills and you will be able to master the technique of how to do a French braid in no time so keep reading to find out more.
What is a French Braid?
A French braid is an inverted braid where strands of hair are plaited down against the scalp.
With each section, more hair is added so that it lays flat and all the hair on the head is incorporated.
Usually starting at the front hairline, the braid takes uniform sections and works its way back down to the nape of the neck in one single braid.
Where did french braids originate?
You would be wrong in assuming that French braids originated in France, in fact, the history of the ‘French Braid’ is much more deep and richer than it appears to be at the first instance.
If you have any experience of braiding, you will know that is a popular hairstyle in the African and black community where the hair is worn in different variations of braided styles to protect it from the Sun and other types of damage.
History tells us that the first people to possibly braid their hair from a tribe in Northern Africa possibly modern day not Algeria called the Tassili N’jer, in fact, that even then cave drawings depicting the styles across the globe including Greece, Egypt and other regions across the world.
In many cultures braids are worn for special occasions, traditional events or as is the case with slaves in America, as maps to plot escape routes.
Are french braids french?
As the style clearly did not originate in France, what happened? Well, a write for a magazine called ‘Home’ suggested in late 1800 that his wife should wear one of those braided styles and it all took off from there.
The confusing part is that for such a throwaway comment with no picture detail attached, how people were able to link it to a particular braid or why it became so popular.
What are French braids called in France?
In France itself it seems like the people there are bit more clued up to the history of the style and do not refer to as a French braid but rather call it “tresse africaine” (i.e. “African braid”).
There has been a long history of Africans emigrating to France and other European countries, so it is possible that their style also became known and sought after due to the influx of different cultures and people wanting to try out the style.
How did the French braid get its name?
Paris is known as the fashion capital of the world so it is not hard to guess that when the style became popular within European circles that credit was given to the French and not to the real originators, the people of Africa.
Even so, whatever you refer to these braids as french braids, french plaits, scalp braids. cornrows, canerows or otherwise, there is now a universal understanding of the meaning although it’s always good to know the real origins.
Are french braids in style 2022?
Braids are always in style and have ways of complimenting current fashion trends.
Usually, during the summer, every festival season people start to get braids done more than usual as it fits into the Boho chic aesthetic for birthday parties, live music events and generally living your best life.
French braids are simple but elegant and can be dressed up or down to suit any occasion whether it’s an afternoon with friends, a formal dinner or even for your wedding, French braids can be adapted to any occasion.
Some people think that French braids or any other form on braided style, in general, are only suitable for Afro-textured hair or for young children, but if your hair is long enough it can be braided and can be modified to fit your style.
French Braid Hairstyles – Which One Fits You The Best?
If you’re looking for a French braid to suit your hairstyle or to see which type of braid will suit you best, there are many different options, almost infinite and under this section is just a small range of multiple ways you can wear a French braid.
Don’t limit yourself to one type at a time, you can choose one or several depending on if you can french braid your hair for yourself or if you can ask a friend or visit the hair salon.
When picking your French braid, there are a few things you need to take into consideration:
- the length of your hair
- your face shape
- the theme of that event you are attending
If you want to do a French braid on short hair, you probably need to adapt it so that it can include most of the hair.
For example, a diagonal French braid going across from ear to ear it’s probably best rather than doing a French braid as usual so that the shorter hair at the sides can reach.
Also using more styling products that can help to prevent flyaways and keep the short hairs inside the braid, there are mousse or gels, wax or even hairspray.
Depending on your face shape, a central braid might not be the best idea as it may not be flattering.
Also if you have a Widowspeak or a hairline which is very fine at the temples or damaged in some areas, you may want to disguise it and use partings or accessories to draw attention away from there.
Many people who have fringes or bangs choose to leave out his portion of their hair and only braid the rest, this way if you are not comfortable with showing all of your forehead or face, you can still keep the features you like and incorporate it into an individual style.
At the end of the day choosing the right type of french braid is a game of trial and error and the way to know what will suit you is to look in a mirror and see if you like it or not.
Because they are so quick to do it doesn’t take more than five or 10 minutes to try out a style. If it doesn’t suit you, you can quickly take it down and re-do it in a different position that makes it better.
Once you have mastered how to do a simple French braid it’s really easy to adapt it and put your own twist on it, so below we have several ideas for how you can jazz up your French braids.
You can try as many of these and figure out which one is your ideal style.
French Braid Pigtails / Two-Sided Revered French Braid / Double French Braid by Catherine Belle
Side French Braid by Missy Sue
French Braid Bun by Missy Sue
credit: MISSY SUE
Fishtail French Braid by Missy Sue
French Braid Ponytail by Missy Sue
Braids for Short Hair by Libby Clark
Easy French Braid by Ania Walasik
French Braid Crown by Abby Smith
Loose French Braid by Guy Tang
Upside Down French Braid by Justin Marjan
French Twist Braid by Salon Secret
Bang Braid by Emily
Inside Out French Braid / Inverted French Braid / Reverse French Braid by Gina Michele
French Braid Tutorials for Beginners
Before you can execute a French braid you should be able to do a simple three strand braid on your own hair or someone else’s, as this forms the foundation of a French braid and the technique needed ensure the finger placement is correct and is crucial to having a secure and neat French braid.
If you have no one to practice on and can’t practice on yourself then use three different coloured pieces of string to help you learn how to do a simple braid.
Tie a knot in the string holding the three pieces together and tape this down to a table or somewhere secure.
Practice placing one of the outer strings over into the middle section and repeating all the way down alternating sides.
So for example on the three strands if you label them A B and C going from left to right, then see the C string will go over the B and become the middle one.
Then strand A will go over the C strand to be in the middle and you keep on repeating putting the outside string over the middle from either side.
Once you have mastered how to braid on string then it’s time to practice with hair, sometimes it can be a little bit more difficult because you have more to play with but the idea is the same also you have to take into account that there may be shorter pieces of hair that will not fit into the next braid especially if the hair is layered, when you get to the ends you can use an elastic band to secure it before it becomes to narrow or hard to braid.
The difference between a simple braid and a French braid, is that as you go down you are adding more hair into the braid, whereas a simple braid starts and finishes with the same amount of hair,
When you are doing a French braid on someone else’s hair stand behind them and take your three initial pieces of hair as you did with the string however when you go to take the next section of hair to place it from the outside into the middle do a horizontal part to get more hair from the sides to add to your initial piece of hair.
After the first cross you do the same thing on the other side so whenever you going to the middle, you add extra hair from the sides of the head to go into your French braid.
How to french braid someone else’s hair
When you are working on someone else’s hair you have to be very careful about how much tension you use so that it is secure but not painful.
Always asked them how it feels and make sure that you can not see any tension on them such as high shoulders or even them shouting out ouch!
When you’re braiding someone else’s hair you want to make sure they’re in a comfortable position first and that you have all the tools you need close by that is- a spray bottle, comb, elastic bands or brushes that way if you run into trouble everything you need will be in reach.
How french braid on yourself?
Once you are a pro at braiding on someone else, it’s time to give it a go on your own hair.
Just like riding a bike or tying your shoelace, your hands will have muscle memory and will know exactly what to do although sometimes not been able to see puts people off and confuses them.
So when you are practicing your initial simple braid or French braids on other people, try to do it blind or with your eyes closed, you should be able to feel and know exactly what comes next and how much had to pick up without even looking.
The first few times you try it your braid may be a bit wonky, loose or misshapen but you quickly learn how to rectify these problems as you practice.
If you find your braid tapers to one side it means that your body is angled in the wrong position, always stand square and behind (or to the side) but facing where you want to braid straight on.
If your braid get loose quickly it means that you’re not putting enough tension and between each crossover gently pull the strands tighter so that you have a better grip and they are more secure.
The hardest part about braiding your own hair especially French braids, is not, not been able to see but having your hands in awkward positions that can get very very tiring.
For the best rate you want to make sure that your shoulders are not restricted in any way as you need to be flexible as possible to reach behind you also make sure you don’t have any jewelry on that can get caught in your hair.
When starting your French braids, sit or stand in front of a mirror so you can accurately pick the first few sections as you get started and get more confident in your skills.
By the time your braid reaches the top of your head, you should be able to continue at the back without using a mirror or turning your head to the side as your hands will know what to do.
If you are really fancy you can set up your phone camera behind you and have the picture come out on a computer or TV screen if it has the capability.
Then you can see what’s happening behind you without having to stretch or contort yourself into difficult positions.
How to french braid curly hair?
When do a French braid on curly hair, you have the added benefit because the hair texture allows you to have a better grip and the braid will stay neater for longer.
For your French braid you have two options: you can either completely brush and detangle the curls before you start to have a smooth sleek and finish.
Or you could do the french braid on curly hair for lots of volume and texture.
Which ever way you decide to conduct your French braids on your curly hair the outcome will be the same however it will just be slight variations in the final look but the technique is exactly the same.
How to french braid black hair?
French braids on Afro hair can look just as trendy and neat as a French braid on Caucasian hair.
When you french braid Afro hair, you want to make sure the hair is as moisturized as possible and if necessary use styling products to keep the edges neat and tidy. Also as the hair is thicker it means that the braid will stay secure for a lot longer and will not fall out as it may do with other hair types.
The other benefit of doing french braids on afro hair is that you’re not likely to need to use elastics as the hair naturally tapers and will be able to stay secure without any other products.
How to Perk Up Your French Braid
To take your French braid to the next level by using accessories that will help you to stand out from the crowd and show that people that not only are you Braiding master but your hair is literally a work of art.
No, don’t just reach into your arts and craft box and use and your glitter there.
Specially formulated hair glitters must be used because the particles easily washout and won’t cause any damage to your hair.
Colored beads and elastics
ending your French braid in the right way can really be make all the difference, so using matching colored elastic to your outfit or large beads can make even the most basic of French braids look beautiful.
Coloured wire or string
Once you have finished your grade you can jazz it up by using coloured wire or string to add an extra dimension.
Place the string on a safety pin or large needle and weave it through the braid so that you get highlights with your chosen colour.
Follow these steps for french braid success
- Practice Blind
- Braid Dry (on textured hair) Damp (on straight hair)
- Add Texture using a crimp or curling iron
- Refrain from Product Overload (water based it best)
- Jazz It Up
- Structure First, Mess Up Second
Youtube French Braid Tutorials
Frequently Asked questions about french braids
When you are learning a new skill it’s common to have lots of questions to help develop your understanding and technique.
Finding out if this is really a style that will be good for your hair or what are the pros and cons so below we are featured some of the most common questions that are asked about French braids but you may be shy to ask others but don’t worry we can help you out.
Are french braids bad for your hair?
French braids in general, are considered a protective style, meaning that they help to shield your hair from damage from the elements and excessive heat.
A lot of people even suggest that their hair grows when they do the style.
Generally French braids are not bad for the hair at all in fact, they can be great, however, people run into problems due to their technique or products that they may be using to create the style.
If you do the braids too tightly or use a lot of gel and heavy products this may weigh your hair down and can cause breakage especially at the hairline leading to a condition called traction alopecia.
This is very rare and in most cases, people will be able to wear French braids or any other braid style for that matter without any problems.
If you are a part of the number of people who have a sensitive hairline or scalp, maybe french braids are not suitable for you. You can easily tell as once you’ve done the braid, if it feels painful or red, itchy or sore in any way, you should take out immediately.
Are french braids and cornrows the same?
French braids and cornrows are often confused however there are subtle differences between the two for example
A French braid is inverted meaning that the sections are tucked under the next section and it’s usually one large braid on the head or possibly two.
This style is usually done on longer hair as all the hair it is incorporated into the braid so doing a French braid on short hair can be difficult as not all hair will be up to reach the central section of the head.
Cornrows are not usually done as one large braid, but rather a multitude of small ones often in fancy and varying designs at the discretion of the wearer.
In actual fact, cornrows are more similar to Dutch braids as the style is a scalp braid but the sections are taking under the next section giving the braid a raised and more 3-D look.
If you currently have any type of semi-permanent extensions and are wondering if you can have a French braid then the answer is:
Yes you can!
The great thing about many types of hair extension is that the bonds or attachment to the scalp are usually disguised by the hair because of the way the French braid is done, only the perimeters of the hairline is seen and the rest of the hair is tucked away.
Thankfully it means you don’t have to worry about any pesky bonds or extension wefts showing and people realizing that your hair is not 100% real or yours.
If you have clip in extensions or a weave or any type of extension on a weft, the best thing to do is to take a section that envelops this part so they cannot be seen.
In practical terms when you go to take a section and it contains a weft of hair, take extra around that section of hair over and under making sure that the weft is completely covered by natural hair.
The strand by strand methods are the best for doing French braids because the hair is more individual similarly to the natural hair.
It allows for a flatter and more flawless look from your braids as you are able to take regular and even sections.
Can you french braid your own hair
Learning to braid your hair is kind of like learning to ride a bike, it’s a skill that takes a little bit of practice but when you get it, it never leaves you.
So even if at the moment you can only braid someone else’s hair or can just do a simple three-strand braid, you can definitely learn to do your own hair and it just may take a little bit of maneuvering as we often had to have your hand hands in with positions behind your head.
Just work and trust in your fingertips to make sure that you’re doing the right things.
Can you french braid a weave
Depending on the type of weave you have, it’s usually still possible to do a French braid however you may want to adapt it from the original or classic French braid going from hairline a different style, maybe doing a side French braid or something that suits the installation that you had done.
The main point is that you want to keep your hair extensions hidden and therefore you want to braid in the direction, downwards of your extension so that when you are gathering for each section of the braid you do not have an exposed weft or scalp.
Can you french braid layered hair
Layered hair layered hair can be a little bit more difficult to Braid as there are a lot more shorter parts that may not reach a central section of the scalp, but again just as with other styles you can adapt it to suit your individual needs.
The benefit of a french braid over different braid styles is that when braiding short hair, it is all tucked inside and so can be hidden easier that outward facing braids.
If your hair is still long enough to reach and do one central braid, you may find that you have little hairs sticking out from the bride which doesn’t have the best look or makes your braid look uneven even and messy.
In these cases what you can do is use a styling product or braid the hair when it’s slightly damp.
This will allow all the hairs to lay flatter and be easily manipulated. You could also use a little bit of a mousse when you are done to tame and pesky flyaways.
How to maintain braids?
Once you have mastered the technique of how to do French braids the next step is to make sure that they last as long as possible so here are a few hair hacks to help you keep your French braids looking très bien.
Protect Your Hair At Night
It should be a regular part of your hair routine anyway but especially when you have a braid style and you want to keep your hair covered to stop it from getting frizzy or messy during the night when you sleep.
The best way to do this is to wear a headscarf made from a satin or silk material or at least have a pillowcase made from the same.
This will stop your hair from rubbing against the cotton, excess friction, your hair and scalp getting dry and tangled or the braid coming loose.
Keep Your Scalp Moist
the scalp produces a natural oil called sebum but sometimes it needs a little extra helping hand so you can use a light oil such as a jojoba or spray a mix of leave in conditioner when it starts to feel dry.
Apply Moisturizing and sealing product to hair
The LOC method it’s great to keep your hair looking moisturized and at its best.
Starting with a liquid such as water or a light leave in conditioner, mist your hair using a spray bottle and then seal in this moisture with an oil and then use a cream or styling product for extra hold.
By following these steps you make sure that your hair is not only moisturized and will not become dry why you’re wearing a French braid but it will also start to look better because your hair will have a great natural shine.
Avoid Unnatural Products When Keeping Hair Moisturized
When choosing products for your hair, it’s best to use ones that are as chemical free as possible especially stay away from items containing sulfate, parabens and silicon as they will dry and damage your hair and cause excessive buildup meaning that you have to wash your hair more often.
These nasties can also lead to damage in the long run.
Wash your braids one every two weeks (minimum)
Some people feel that if you wash your hair too often it can be damaging however that is not the case when using good products and the correct technique.
Washing frequently doesn’t have any negative side-effects but on the other hand there is also a myth that dirty hair grows faster but this is also false.
Clean hair is the only way to get long and healthy hair so make sure your washing regularly, the average is 7 to 10 days depending on your hair type but more frequently is fine.
It can be difficult to wash your hair while wearing french braids especially if you only have one only large braid, so make the process easier be sure to take down the style and then detangle your hair thoroughly before you start the washing process.
Avoid constant up-dos
Variety is the spice of life and so you should also adopt this mantra with your hairstyles, not only does it give you a new look every time you choose a different style but it also protects your hair from constantly being pulled in the same direction.
French braids can be done in a variety of ways you can do a French braid with your bangs, French braid around the hairline or from a ponytail down whichever way you choose to work your French braid just make sure that you always try to diversify the styles so that you’re not putting too much pressure on one area of your hair.
Don’t pull too tightly when styling
When doing braids braids there can be a tendency to make sure that the start is tight so that all the hairs are included in the braid.
If you pull too tightly when starting a French braid you are opening yourself up for damage around the hairline and especially traction alopecia.
This condition can occur when the hair follicles are pulled out and sometimes this damage can be permanent.
We hope you enjoy this article and that we take the mystery out of the humble French braid and made it accessible for even the most untrained fingers.
With this new skill, you be able to dazzle your friends, family, and colleagues with a multitude of styles you can create in literally just minutes.
As anything practice makes perfect and it can take a little bit of time before you become a French braid expert but we guarantee that you will.
So whether your hair is short, long, curly or straight, French braids are the perfect way to create a new style look for yourself whenever the mood takes you.
At USA Hair you know we love to give you extra and so below we have a list of our favorite celebs and how they rock their French braids, hopefully, that will give you some inspiration to try out this fantastic style and keep your fingers and hands busy.
Bonus: 44 Braids Hairstyles by Celebrities You Can Mimic
- Beyoncé’s twisted half-up French braid
- Dakota Johnson’s loose, messy French braid
- Chrissy Teigan’s triple-layered French braids
- Dania Ramirez’s French crown braid
- Amanda Seyfried’s double-braided French chignon
- Fan Bingbing’s wrap-around French braid
- Kim Kardashian’s textured French braid
- Gabrielle Union’s soft halo French braid
- Emma Watson’s intricate multi-layered French braid
- Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s French-braided updo
- Hailey Baldwin’s faux-hawk French braid
- Janelle Monae’s bejeweled French crown braid
- Kate Hudson’s soft-and-tied French braid
- Jessica Williams’s milkmaid French braid
- Katy Perry’s textured French crown braid
- Skai Jackson’s triple-cornrow French braids
- Julianne Hough’s French halo braid
- Laverne Cox’s half-up French braid
- Lea Michele’s classic single French braid
- Lucy Hale’s soft, French-braided updo
- Zendaya’s cornrow-and-French-braids updo
- Margot Robbie’s messy French braid
- Yara Shahidi’s double French braids
- Nicole Richie’s slick, side French braid
- Regina King’s undercut French braid
- Rachel Zoe’s French-braided ponytail
- Rihanna’s French-braided bangs
- Rita Ora’s side French braid
- Tenoyah Parris’s French-braided bun
- Sienna Miller’s double French braids
- Blake Lively
- Cara Delevingne
- Kate Bosworth
- Emma Stone
- Diane Kruger
- Elizabeth Banks
- Amy Adams
- Behati Prinsloo
- Jaime King
- Lily Aldridge
- Sienna Miller
- Amber Heard